Share My Cosplay: Behind the Lens with The Portrait Dude

Location: Wellston / Columbus , OH, USA
Links: (Facebook) (Website)

SMC: What interested you in photography?
Wes Smith: I briefly worked for a professional photographer as his photoshop guy, but didn’t have any interest in doing photography until I heard my cousin say he wasn’t going to get Senior pictures done.  I told him if he would buy me a cheap Wal Mart camera I’d do them for him.  We did and posted the pics on Facebook and things kind of took off from there.

SMC: What interested you in photographing cosplayers?
Wes Smith: I’ve always been a huge comic book and video game fan, so the love for that style of art has always been there.  After trying to find my own unique style and niche in my regular photography I started feeling pretty frustrated at it.  I jokingly suggested to a friend of mine who cosplayed as Batman a lot that we needed to get together and do a Batman shoot for fun sometime.  He said he was game and had a few friends who were into cosplay as well, so we made an evening of it.  I had the most fun I have ever had on a shoot that evening and we were all very happy with the result.  I uploaded the shoot to Facebook and after I got an awesome response to it I decided to start a separate page for my cosplay photography and I settled on “The Portrait Dude”.

SMC: Do you have a preference shooting between studios, outside or conventions?
Wes Smith: Six months ago I would have said outside only in a heartbeat, but I’ve really come to love shooting in a convention setting as well.  There’s nothing quite like the reaction on a cosplayer’s face when we take a pretty plain location, add some lighting and create something really unique together.  I don’t do much studio stuff, but I’m not opposed to it if an opportunity comes up.  So I guess in order that I prefer is outside, convention then studio.  As long as I’m making art I’m happy 🙂

SMC: Any upcoming cosplay events you will be shooting (Schedule)?
Wes Smith: As of now here is my list of cons I plan on attending this year:

GenCon (Indianapolis), Matsuricon (Columbus, Oh), Cincinnati Comic Expo in Cincinnati, OH (I will be the event photographer, cosplay contest judge and photographer this year so Im super excited about that one).  After that is WW Mid Ohio Con (Columbus, Oh), possibly Tsubasacon (West Virginia) and on to Ohayacon (Columbus, OH) next year.

Next year C2E2 is a definite as well as Indy Pop Con, Indianapolis Comic Con, Colossalcon, and more added as they come up.  I am adding a page to my website that will have an up to date schedule soon, so that’s the best place to find out where I will be and when.

SMC: What photographers inspire you?
Wes Smith: I have really been studying Benjamin Von Wong’s work in the past few months and it has really opened my eyes to what is possible with my own work.  He constantly blows my mind.

As far as instruction goes Jared Polin (Fro Knows Photo) has taught me SOOOOO MUCH.  His stuff is awesome and he is hilarious.

And last but not least Jamie Swanson (The Modern Tog) has been tremendously helpful in developing The Portrait Dude part of what I do into its own gig and showing me it’s okay to be different in finding my niche.

SMC: Any favorite cosplayers you have liked to working with in the past?
Wes Smith: Michael “Knightmage” Wilson, Chelsey Cosplay, Hailey Scott, Nin Ja and Amanda Vitale have been some of my faves here recently.  I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Raychul Moore and Jessica LG at Indy Pop Con this year.  Both were extremely awesome and I could tell that they love their fans!

SMC: Any cosplayers you hope to work with in the near future?
Wes Smith: Way too many to list here, but I will give it a shot.  I have a shoot set up with the lovely Belle Chere as well as Chris and Miracole Burns in Cincinnati.  I would also love to work with Jessica LG, Junkers Cosplay, Raychul Moore, KO Cosplay, LeAnna Vamp, R1ddle and (of course) YaYa Han just to name a few off the top of my head.

SMC: Any cosplay shots youre best known for?
Wes Smith: My best known stuff is probably one of my first shoots with Knightmage in his amazing Spawn outfit in front of the Cincinnati Comic Expo.  That one got shared around a good bit.  I would say any of my shoots with him really.  Also more recently my shoot with Hailey Scott in her Gyarados outfit was published in CHURO magazine and got the cover shot, which was pretty cool.  Unfortunately they credited the wrong photographer, but hey life happens.  I’m just happy to have my stuff out there.

SMC: Do you have a geeky side? Whats your favorite way to pass the time? (Comic books, video games, movies, anime, etc)
Wes Smith: I love to watch sic fi and fantasy shows with my wife.  I am a big fan of Game of Thrones (which I started watching so I would recognize the characters when people cosplayed as them) and also enjoy watching Dr Who, Haven, Sherlock, Grimm, Once Upon a Time and Mythbusters.  I enjoy gaming, but don’t let myself get involved in the online ones most of the time because I get seriously addicted.  Currently when I do game I play Skyrim (Illusionist Ranger/Assassin build), Diablo III (Grenade Demon Hunter).  Other than than I’m almost always working on photos of one sort or another.

I love comics but I haven’t really followed anything since Marvel’s Civil War, so I am working on getting caught up.  Even though it’s not nerdy I also enjoy playing drums and reading.

SMC: Any upcoming / ongoing cosplay related projects?
Wes Smith: The Fighter’s Cause charity mega shoot in November in Dayton, OH will have over twenty cosplayers involved and we will be selling prints and merchandise with the profits going to go to various charities.  We are going to have a few photographers on site, a few people helping with special effects and makeup so it should be pretty awesome!

I also have an all weekend shoot planned with Sweets4aSweet, Pretty Lush Cosplay, Michael “Knightmage” Wilson,  April Gloria Cosplay and Amanda Dawn Cosplay this September.  That should be a really fun time and I expect to have a ton of new content coming from that shoot so make sure to add each of them to see what comes from that!